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Post How playoff games are won

Wednesday January 3, 2018

It’s going to take some time to process the Rose Bowl. It’s surely a classic, and it’s place among the great Rose Bowls will have to be debated by people who have watched a lot more Pac 12 / Big 10 football than I have. And we really don’t have time to dwell on it, because the win opens up an opportunity to play for something even bigger in less than a week. When you’re in the middle of an emotional roller-coaster of a game, all you have are disjointed reactions until we have time in a few weeks to sort all of this out. Because it would take volumes to do justice to this game, it’s all I can do to focus on one player: sophomore wide receiver Tyler Simmons.

Simmons played occasionally in 2017 as a reserve receiver. He had two catches for 17 yards during the regular season and hadn’t caught a pass since the Samford game. With Jayson Stanley suspended for the game, Simmons was called on more often in the Rose Bowl. The first time we saw him was in the first quarter when he caught a first down pass just short of the marker. A subsequent penalty killed the drive and led to a missed FG, but who thought we’d get into scoring position on consecutive passes to Charlie Woerner followed by Tyler Simmons’ first reception since September?

Simmons made a bigger play in the third quarter. Georgia faced a punt near midfield and hoped to pin the Sooners deep. Stanley was often a gunner on punt coverage, and Simmons filled the role on this punt. He sprinted down the sideline and made a clean stop of a rolling ball just shy of the goal line. Oklahoma was able to punch the ball out with a couple of runs, but they remained on their side of the field due to the starting field position. Georgia’s defense bounced back with a couple of sacks, and the comeback rolled on. After a shaky start that featured a short punt and a missed field goal, Georgia’s special teams was as good as it’s been all season in the second half. Simmons’ play on that punt was one of several big moments in the kicking game.

There’s one more highlight featuring Simmons, and it’s a play we’re going to rewatch for years. Look at the receiver personnel on Georgia’s final play. It wasn’t the usual Wims, Godwin, Hardman, or Ridley. It was Crumpton, Blount, and Simmons. Three guys with a total of eight receptions between them. We’ve seen Georgia use a similar grouping on run plays throughout the season. Again Simmons took the place of the suspended Stanley in the formation. Wynn got out in front of the play. Nauta helped Baker seal off the inside. Fromm – Fromm! – sustained a block on the outside cornerback to open up the lane. Simmons, lined up in the slot, got to the secondary and disrupted a defensive back long enough for Michel to get past.

Why focus on Simmons? Georgia needed its stars to come up big, and of course they did. The Dawgs wouldn’t have won without Michel or Smith or Chubb or Fromm or Carter doing what they do. Georgia has never lacked for that star talent even in the lean years. Teams compete for championships though when their star players are augmented by others up and down the roster doing their jobs. As Georgia’s recruiting picks up, you’re going to have talented players outside of the starting lineup called on to fill roles even on special teams or in situational packages. There can be no dead weight. Every active player on this team has the opportunity to contribute. The flip side is that everyone must be ready to contribute when that opportunity presents itself. Tyler Simmons was. Tae Crowder was.

OK…one last Simmons clip from Cole Cubelic. Ouch.

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